• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Authenticity and transparency in leadership are significant strengths in business – Sanusi

Authenticity and transparency in leadership are significant strengths in business – Sanusi

Adebimpe Sanusi is the founder/CEO of On The Rocks With B (OtrwithB) with a background in law and public relation (PR). In this interview with John Salau, she spoke about her trajectory in business and the challenges in running a business in Nigeria as a female entrepreneur. Excerpts:

Can you share the story behind your business, and what inspired you to start OtrwithB?

The idea for ‘On The Rocks With B’ (or OtrwithB in short form) came to me  when I was in between jobs. In my previous role, I was responsible for overseeing customer experience, which included conceiving interactive ideas aimed at maximising guest engagement at events. One of the touchpoints was the interactive cocktail bar, which quickly became a centerpiece at our events. The cocktail bar was not just about serving drinks; it was about creating memorable experiences. I saw firsthand how a well-crafted cocktail, made right in front of a guest, could spark conversations, bring people together, and elevate the overall event experience. This piqued my interest in mixology. I began to delve deeper into the art and science of cocktail making, experimenting with different ingredients, techniques, and presentations. Thus, OtrwithB was born – a sustainable mobile cocktail bar business dedicated to crafting exceptional drinks and creating unforgettable moments for every event we cater to.

Read also: Empowering Managers in Nigeria: Excelia DBA Journey to Transformative Leadership

What are some of the sustainable business practices implemented within OtrwithB?

At OtrwithB, we believe sustainability is not just a trend but a responsibility which we take very seriously. To minimise our environmental footprint, we have incorporated several sustainable business practices into our operations. We use biodegradable and compostable cups, to reduce plastic waste and ensure our disposables have minimal environmental impact. Our bottled cocktails are packaged in recyclable materials, and we encourage our customers to recycle them. Our cocktails explore unique flavor combinations using ingredients sourced from local farmers and suppliers. This not only supports local businesses but also reduces the carbon footprint associated with transportation and promotes sustainable agriculture. Sustainability is not about creating something new. It’s about reconsidering the things we routinely use to repurpose them. This is why we create our in-house syrups and infusions from leftover fruit scraps, spices, and herbs minimising waste. Where ingredients need to be imported, we work with partners who share similar values and goals; we make responsible sourcing a key focus when choosing our suppliers. We remain committed to continuously improving our sustainability efforts while striving to provide exceptional service and memorable experiences.

How do these practices contribute to your profitability?

Implementing sustainable practices and profitability are not mutually exclusive. Building strong relationships with local suppliers often leads to better pricing and more reliable supply chains. This ensures we have access to fresh, high-quality ingredients at reduced costs. Utilising seasonal ingredients allows us to offer unique, timely cocktails at a lower cost since seasonal produce is typically less expensive and more abundant. Our sustainable practices have made our operations even more efficient. For example, we are better able to manage our inventory and reduce waste which directly contributes to our bottom line. Overall, our commitment to sustainability not only aligns with our values but also drives cost savings, enhances our brand, and attracts a loyal customer base, all of which contribute to our profitability.

What are the challenges you encountered implementing sustainable business practices, and how have you handled them?

Implementing sustainable business practices at OtrwithB has certainly presented challenges, but we have developed effective strategies to overcome them. One of the main challenges was finding reliable local suppliers who can consistently provide high-quality, sustainable ingredients. To address this, we invested time in building strong relationships with local suppliers, ensuring open communication and reliability. We also created a diversified supplier network to avoid over-reliance on any single source. Sustainable products and materials, such as biodegradable packaging are expensive. To manage the high upfront costs, we gradually phased in sustainable alternatives, spreading out the costs over time. Additionally, we explored bulk purchasing options and negotiated with suppliers to secure better pricing. Integrating sustainable practices required significant changes to our existing operations, initially causing some disruptions. We had to conduct thorough training sessions for our staff to ensure they understood the importance of our sustainable practices. Continuous feedback and incremental adjustments helped streamline the transition. These practices have helped us successfully integrate sustainability into our business model.

On the back of these; as a female entrepreneur, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced building your business?

Building a business as a woman has presented a unique set of challenges that have significantly shaped my entrepreneurial journey. One of the most persistent issues has been dealing with stereotyping. There have been numerous instances where my abilities were questioned or underestimated in subtle ways. Overcoming this has required a relentless focus on delivering exceptional results and building a solid track record of success. Traditional perceptions of leadership are a challenge I face constantly. Qualities often associated with women, such as empathy and collaboration, can be seen as weaknesses rather than strengths. However, I’ve embraced my authentic leadership style and demonstrated that these qualities can lead to strong, cohesive teams and successful business outcomes. Authenticity and transparency in leadership have proven to be significant strengths. Despite these challenges, being a woman in business has also offered unique opportunities to champion diversity, foster inclusive environments, and inspire other women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Each challenge has been a learning experience, contributing to my growth as a business leader and reinforcing my commitment to making a positive impact through my work.

Read also: Nigeria as I see it: Reflections on the challenge of leadership

How do you ensure your businesses remain competitive while staying true to your commitment to sustainability?

Our approach is a multifaceted one, with our customers’ right at the center of everything we do. Our focus has always been to deliver high-quality gourmet cocktails that delight them. By continuously experimenting with new recipes and presentation styles, we keep our offerings fresh and exciting while also honoring our commitment to sustainability. Our team is trained to provide exceptional, personalized service, ensuring that every customer feels valued and has a memorable experience. Operational efficiency is key, and we continuously seek ways to improve our operations, reduce waste, and optimize resources. Staying informed about market trends and customer preferences allows us to adapt quickly and stay ahead of the competition. We actively seek and act on customer feedback to continuously improve our offerings and services.

How inclusive are your business operations and how does it contribute to your success?

Lagos is a vibrant, multicultural city, a melting pot of ethnic groups and diverse beliefs. I often liken the diversity of our team to that of the city of Lagos since that is our place of primary operations. We prioritise hiring a team that reflects the diverse cultural makeup of Lagos, which brings a variety of perspectives and ideas, enhancing creativity and problem-solving within our team. To ensure our staff understands and respects the diverse backgrounds of our clients, we provide cultural competency training, which tackles biases and stereotypes, while fostering respectful service delivery. Our cocktail menus incorporate local ingredients and traditional Nigerian flavors, including drinks inspired by local beverages like zobo (hibiscus tea), palm wine, and locally grown herbs and fruits such as lemongrass, strawberries, passionfruit amongst others. Our team provides personalised service that respects and values the cultural nuances of our clients, ensuring that all guests feel welcomed and appreciated. We actively seek feedback from our diverse clientele to understand their preferences and experiences, helping us continually improve our services and ensure cultural inclusiveness. We also encourage our employees to share their cultural insights and ideas, which we incorporate into our operations and offerings. Our commitment to cultural inclusiveness builds strong customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth referrals. The diversity within our team and menu fosters innovation, keeping our offerings fresh and exciting. An inclusive and respectful workplace culture boosts employee satisfaction and retention, all of which result in better service and productivity.

How do you provide opportunities and access to quality education for youth within your host community?

At OtrwithB, we believe that people matter greatly, and we are committed to improving lives by providing opportunities to underserved youth in our community. We employ young people as part of our team to offer them stable employment that provides the necessary funds to support their educational pursuits. We insist that all employees who are yet to complete their tertiary education must show proof that they are in active pursuit of the same. By offering flexible work hours, we ensure that our employees can balance their job responsibilities with their academic commitments. This flexibility allows them to attend classes, complete assignments, and participate in school activities without compromising their work schedules. We also invest in the personal and professional development of our employees. We provide comprehensive training in various aspects of the hospitality industry, from customer service and bartending skills to teamwork and communication. These skills not only enhance their performance at work but also equip them with invaluable tools that can be applied in future career opportunities. Through our efforts, we aim to break the cycle of poverty and limited opportunities faced by many of these young adults.

Read also: Leveraging data-driven decision-making in leadership

How do you measure the impact of your empowerment initiatives?

First, we track educational outcomes by monitoring academic performance, and graduation rates. By providing flexible work schedules and financial support, we aim to see a positive correlation between their employment with us and their academic success. Second, we conduct regular surveys and feedback sessions with our employees to gather insights into their personal and professional development. These sessions allow us to understand their experiences, challenges, and achievements, providing a comprehensive view of how our initiatives are impacting their lives. We also track career progression by following up with our former employees to see how their time at OtrwithB influenced their career paths. Success stories and career advancements are key indicators of the long-term impact of our empowerment programs.

Looking ahead, what are your plans for scaling and expanding the impact of OtrwithB?

Looking ahead, we have ambitious plans for scaling and expanding the impact of OtrwithB. While I can’t reveal all the details just yet, I can share that in the near future, we will prioritise backward integration. This strategic move will diversify our product offerings and create more job opportunities for the youth within our community.